Some zoning ordinances are subject to the rule of unintended consequences. The intent is often not codified in a way that anticipates every possible application of the ordinance requirements. An example is the Ann Arbor Off-street Parking ordinance intended to prevent parking between commercial buildings and adjacent rights-of-way.
Our client owns a shopping center in a C3/Commercial zoning district with frontage on three public streets. A remodeling project is proposed to construct entries on a blank face of the center and add parking between the building and the street.
City planning staff opposed parking in this location because the “intent” of Chapter 59 is to require buildings to be located close to front property lines with parking in side or rear yards. We argued that the “content” of the ordinance is the controlling factor and that the ordinance includes an exception for sites with multiple frontages. We submitted a Zoning Compliance Permit Application.
Chapter 59, Section 5:168, item (2) c, describes an exception to the prohibition of parking between the building and the street. “Sites with more than 1 front line; the requirements of paragraph (1) in this section shall apply to only 1 front lot line. For all other lot lines abutting streets, parking shall be located behind the minimum front setback requirement, per Chapter 55 (Zoning).”
That paragraph reads “Vehicular parking structures, lots and space shall not be located in the front open space. No space within a parking structure or lot may be closer to the street than the front face of a building.”
- The site has frontage on three public streets.
Item (2) c applies and requires that only 1 of the frontage cannot have parking between the building and the street.
The preliminary site concept showed proposed improvements including removal of all parking spaces between the building and one of the other two frontages, one that is functionally a rear yard. Removing that parking makes that frontage comply with paragraph (1). The front line adjacent to proposed parking no longer has to meet that requirement.
- The other two front lines are not subject to paragraph (1) and are subject to the requirement that “parking shall be located behind the minimum front setback requirement” which is 10 feet.
The Zoning Compliance Application was approved. The City immediately began the process of changing Chapter 59 to revise the ordinance to require a minimum 25 foot setback rather than the 10 minimum permitted in the C3 district.
We submitted a Site Plan that showed a minimum 25 foot parking setback and that was unanimously approved.